The League of Nations

The scientist in Einstein was so great that he far transcended his nationality. Therefore, it was so easy for the League of Nations to invite him to become a member of its Committee on Intellectual Co-operation even while his nation was begging for membership in the League. The illumining thoughts that he offered regarding this great incident awaken the sleeping life and illumine the suspecting mind of humanity.

The Committee sought to re-establish contacts disrupted by war, to report to the League on measures to be taken to facilitate intellectual exchanges, particularly scientific ones, among nations. Einstein agreed with this lofty goal. “I consider it my duty to accept your invitation. In my opinion, no one, in times such as these, should refuse to participate in any effort made to bring about international co-operation,” he said.

Later he wrote: “These more enlightened men can make an important contribution to the great task of reviving international societies by keeping in close touch with like-minded men and women the world over, as well as by steadfastly championing the cause of internationalism in their own spheres of influence. Real success will require time, but eventually it will undoubtedly come… I am extremely hopeful for the progress of a general international organisation.”

When he expressed something, he expressed it unreservedly. When he rejected something, he rejected it vehemently. Sincerity always reigned supreme in his life. If he saw something good, illumining and fulfilling, then he immediately offered his heart and soul to manifest that particular thing. But if he saw something that failed to live up to its promise, then his indifference was also striking. When resigning from the Committee on Intellectual Co-operation of the League some months after its first meeting in August of 1922, Einstein said: “I have become convinced that the League possesses neither the strength nor the good will necessary to accomplish its task. As a convinced pacifist it does not seem well to me to have any relation whatever with the League.”

Later he emphasised: “I withdrew because the League of Nations, as it functions at present, not only does not embody the ideal of an international organisation but actually discredits such an ideal…. I did so, however, with great reluctance, because the hope has not yet quite died in me that, within the shell of the League of Nations as it exists today, a better institution may develop in time.”

Then again, when Einstein saw that his conviction had not been well-founded, that he had missed the point, he was more than willing to correct himself and try to manifest the abiding truth in the League of Nations. When asked to return to the Committee as a sign of rapprochement after his protest-resignation, Einstein accepted the invitation: “I myself have slowly come to feel that I was influenced more by a passing mood of disillusionment than by clear thinking. True, so far the League has often failed; but, at a time as saddening as this, it must still be regarded as that institution which offers the best promise of effective action to those who honestly work for international reconciliation.”